The so, so sweet peas!

The first sweet pea bouquet of the season!

The blooming of the sweet peas has been much anticipated, ever since the success of the crop for my first time last year and even more so after placing the order for “Henry Eckford” ORANGE sweet peas. I’ve worried that our warmer than normal and drier than normal weather would effect the crop, but they’ve been watered often and seem no worse for wear…so far. The first bouquet is lightly perfuming my desk even as I write this, their jewel tones brightening what is forecast to be a VERY windy, gloomy day. However, the rain will be welcome, but not so much the 94 degree F temps, or the possible hail and severe storms forecast for later.

The above bouquet is a mixture of the seed saved from last year, which was planted on trellis 7d. I need to look up what variety that was, but that notebook is in the Lady Cottage and it’s already begun to rain. Overall, I like the colors and the scent so I’ll be saving seed again.

Lots of deep purples, rose tones and a bit of coral.

Especially pleasing is that the deep purple sweet peas come into bloom at the same time, and pair so well with the “Breadseed” Poppy nearby. I wish the poppies were a better cut flower, but I’m happy with their appearance in the potager here and there.

The white blooms in the bouquet are from the planting on trellis 2d, which was supposed to be half “Henry Eckford,” an “orange” sweet pea and “Mollie Rilstone,” reportedly a rich cream, with highly rippled pink-coral picotee edge. Here’s what I have:

Some pure white, some soft pink, some reddish/orangish…

Definitely not “Mollie Rilstone.” None of the pale ones directly above have much scent, so I probably won’t be saving the seed for next year, or maybe I will because the white ones look so nice with all the other colors. The final planting is a short row on the trellis by the south bench.

More “Henry Eckford”

When I titled this post, I was thinking “the so, so” meant “so, so sweet!” but as I wrote it and was evaluating the crop, it became more of a “the sweet peas this year are just so-so!” I’m happy to have sweet peas climbing the trellises, but I think I’ll be ordering some with more scent for next year, and not worry so much about color. Stem length may be still a factor, because I do like to cut them. They are all beautiful, and now that I know they can grow in full sun if they get enough water, the potager will always have some! What are your favorite varieties?

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The White Season

What I term “The White Season” in my gardens will soon be coming to an end. I hate to see it go, because I find it so calming and elegant, so bridal and virginal. After the riot of spring bulb colors, there’s something peaceful in drifts of white blooms so I’m enjoying it while I can; before the daylilies take over the show. Since there are so many white flowers in bloom at this exact same time, I suspect Mother Nature planned it. Along the roadsides the Queen Anne’s lace is already in flower, along with the wild raspberries, honeysuckle and several unknown shrubs. It’s also the case in my gardens. In the Deck Garden shown above, the “May Queen” shastas that have been the stars for weeks are starting to brown and droop. Within the next few days, they will all be cut back, making room to plant the zinnias and cosmos that will replace them. The white show will be over.

Of course the star of the White Season is the venerable Elder who grows at the corner of our driveway and the sidewalk, perfuming the air for days and just being a huge bouquet of salad plate sized umbels. It makes my heart glad when she comes into bloom. I take time to thank her each day for her glorious effort. Soon some of her flowers will become elderflower cordial. One can’t dawdle in the harvest, for the tiny flowers are briefly there, so quickly are they pollinated to become berries.

The Mock Orange provides a bit of white once the white alliums were finished in the Front Island, but now the feverfew is coming on like a snowstorm. There are short “Silver Princess” shasta daisies as well just opening, and a white tradescantia in the more shaded area. I’m toying with the idea of spray painting those drying allium heads white. I’ve seen it done in other gardens in bold colors with great effect, so why not white?

The last viburnum to bloom is in the North Island on the right. There’s feverfew here as well. It is welcome everywhere, as I cut it heavily for bouquets, and often it will rebloom in late summer. This year, white hollyhocks add some balance to the white effect and I’m very pleased with them. There are some white portulaca waiting to be planted in this area, probably yet this afternoon to bring the eye down on the left side.

The sun is just rising, making the trees in the background look gold, as though it were already autumn! Even though it is a bit dark in the foreground, the white daisies bring the potager’s exterior border to life. The coreopsis on the right side of the gate just opened this week, foretelling a dramatic change in the border’s color scheme in the near future. The peaceful white will soon be gone, replaced by orange celosias and zinnias, tiger lilies and daylilies.

Inside the potager’s gate there is lots of white at the moment, but soon yellow will take over as the dominant flower color here, too. These little white pea blooms may be small, but when there are hundreds and hundreds of them on the pea fences throughout the potager they make quite an impression. But, when the peas are finished those fences will hold cucumbers, squash, or melons, all with yellow blooms.

Nearby the volunteer cilantro plants in the potager’s border are covered with delicate umbels of white, as are the parsley and cutting celery that wintered over. All are wonderful filler for bouquets, but once they are cut, they are done, and the yellow and orange calendulas at their feet will be much more noticeable.

Valerian is one of my favorite flowers, with its heady perfume and stately stalks. It pops up here and there in the stoned area between the Lady Cottage and the greenhouse. I leave them, even if it means having to step around them until their blooms are done, then out they come to clear the pathway. But while they are here, they are wonderful, filling the air with scent as I sit on the bench to shell peas.

Directly across from the valerian, on the far south side of the potager the double white clematis is just finishing. There is a sister on the other side of the arch that has already dropped its final petals of the year. Colorful sweet peas will take its place on that side, and the “Polka” orange climbing rose will take over the show on this side. Stepping through the south gate, more white is there to view.

The Cutting Garden’s “May Queen” shastas were the first to bloom. I’ll be cutting most of them today, and although there will be white cosmos to take some of their places the colors will be mostly oranges, blues and yellows after this. Happy to report the bunny fence is still working (knock wood!)

And, lastly the white blooms on the blackberry row promise a good crop of luscious berries this year. These flowers won’t last long, but while they do, I enjoy them as do the bees. As soon as the berries begin to show a bit of color, the bunny fence will become the bird defense. Hopefully by then, the babies in the Cutting Garden will be big enough for the bunnies to ignore.

It’s been extremely hot and humid here, especially for early June. It feels more like late July. The high temperatures are hurrying things along. Plants are doubling in size, peppers go from pea-sized to golf ball sized nearly overnight. There are finger-sized squash already, and the garlic scapes MUST be harvested! No more time to linger at the computer. There’s lots to be done before the heat is overwhelming! Have a great weekend. Happy growing!

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Pretty Pairings

The days are passing so quickly, and changes in the garden are happening almost faster than can be recorded. The heat and humidity stimulate growth at an accelerated pace. Plants are doubling in size overnight, and flowers come and go so quickly they can be missed entirely if a daily round is not made.

Possibly because of an increased interest in bouquets, noticing particularly good pairings seems more important. Or, it may be that reading “The Harmonious Garden” by Catherine Ziegler has increased awareness. Whatever the inspiration, here are some pairings of note today. The first one is above, a pairing of “May Queen” shasta daisies and Eremurus, or “Foxtail Lily.” Aren’t sturdy daisies, with their golden centers lovely with the airy plume of soft oranges and gold? Eremurus is a little large for bouquets, but it is certainly a standout in the garden setting.

This is a new pairing in the potager this year. The rose is “Pumpkin Patch” which is a lovely brick/pumpkin orange when it is budded and first opening, but ripens to the much softer color shown above. A happy surprise is that the “Bronze Beauty” calendula are almost exactly the same color, and also have deep orange buds at first. This pairing is definitely staying in the potager’s interior border plan.

An accidental pairing, since both of these characters are self-seeded, randomly placed volunteers, but one that will be intentionally repeated is the “Bread Seed” poppy in the foreground and the deep burgundy “Red Deer Tongue” lettuce in the background. Both are allowed to self-seed at will here and there in the potager’s beds and borders, but a little more encouragement may be given in the future.

The “Red Hot Poker” plants added to the Deck Garden last spring have grown into adults and are sporting their first blooms. I love these orange and yellow torches, especially paired with the yellow bloom clusters of the rue. And even the blue-toned background foliage of the rue and nearby irises are a nice echo of color. Some of the poker plants (tritoma or knifophia) have a bit of white at the bottom, which hopefully will pair nicely with the hollyhocks that are supposed to be white behind them. Shouldn’t have to wait much longer to see if that plan works out.

“Liberty Bronze” snapdragons have been an absolute must in the potager since it’s beginning. New ones are seeded every February in the basement, but if the winter isn’t too harsh there are often some that return, or some self-seeded individuals here and there that are always allowed to remain. One can never have too many snapdragons, especially when they are in such luscious colors. They range in color from deep orange, rust tones, copper to apricot. Some have a bit more pink thrown in than I’d prefer, but overall they are all keepers and are pairing so very well with the roses. The rose above is the “Adobe Sunset” and the volunteer snapdragon is just a happy accident there.

Here’s a pairing that will be made better next year. The blue alliums (A. caesium) were bulbs planted in the Front Island late last autumn, although they’d been purchased with the intention of being planted in the Addition Garden. It was a last minute change, but I’m glad it happened or I might not have noticed how terrific they look with the “Blue Arrow” Scilla that have been in the Front Island for four or five years. However, the alliums are about 20′ from the scilla. The alliums are only 15″ tall, while the scilla are a towering 5′! It’s a happy coincidence that they are nearly identical in color, but so different in form even though both flowers are made of small silvery blue blooms. It really causes the eye to move through the garden, and adding several more of the alliums should improve the pairing of these plants exponentially. With the white feverfew, shasta daisies, and orange or yellow daylilies already there it is a beautiful living bouquet.

That’s a few of the pairings that caught my eye on this day. Do you look for pairings and combinations in your garden? What are your favorites? Do you think of it as a living bouquet?

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The Dilemma of Carpenter Bees!

Life is full of dilemmas, and it seems a gardener has plenty of them. Whether to live trap and relocate those bunnies that are decimating your crops, or put up a fence, or just plant more than they can possibly eat…whether to use that awful “rose food” that contains a systemic poison, or watch the Japanese beetles devour the petals faster than they can open. These are complex problems with conflicting solutions for any gardener, or citizen of the natural world.

Right now, my dilemma is Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa viginica.) That colorful, fuzzy bee pollinating a snapdragon in the photo above is so beneficial. It looks very much like a bumblebee, and is often mistaken for one. Size-wise they are similar, about 1″ in length, and 3/4″ wide. They are covered in bristly hairs, and have the striking yellow and black stripes. The most visual difference is that the Carpenter bee has a bare abdomen. You’ll just have to take my word on that one. Try as hard as I might, I could not get him to roll over for a photo of his bare abdomen.

The Carpenter bee to me is the “Sumo wrestler” of the bee world; big, impressive and more interested in posturing that actual fighting. In fact, I don’t think they even have a stinger. At least, in my 74 years of observation, I’ve yet to be stung by one, or seen anyone else get stung, or even found a stinger on his body. A quick check on a university website states that the females do have a stinger, but very rarely sting unless handled and the males do not even have a stinger. A Carpenter bee’s protective device is an amazing show of courage and aggression, often flying right at face level and hovering there with lots of scary buzzing. For the uninformed, this can be very intimidating. In fact, even though I believe the bee cannot sting, sometimes I find myself flinching. Usually though, I just tell him I appreciate all his hard work in my garden and explain that I too, am harmless. After all, he’s the one who pollinates all the fava bean flowers and the one whose burly shoulders can push open the jaws of the snapdragons. I love seeing them at work in the garden. However…..

Here’s the other “work” they do, and why they are named “Carpenter” bees. The bees drill holes the width of their body into wood. Once they are completely inside, they turn and drill a horizontal tunnel, usually 3-5″ in length. It is in that tunnel that they lay eggs, which become larvae and hatch later on. If you look carefully at the photo above, you can see that they actually make chambers about 1″ in length.

Drilling those chambers thus weakens any wooden structure, and is certainly destructive but I could live with that. The next actor appears and completes the next step in Mother Nature’s complex cycle. You see, I did not excavate that tunnel for your viewing, the Red-headed woodpecker did. Various woodpeckers seek out those apparently delicious and nutritious eggs and larvae, but here the most common are the Red-headed. They peck open the entire chamber, and often add a few decorative touches of their own, enlarging the spaces, removing the finish. Obviously, this just adds to the destruction of the wooden structure. The photo above is in the 2 x 4 rafter of the Lady Cottage “porch.”

Once the tunnel in the overhead rafter was destroyed, the dedicated bees diligently began work on a new home. This time in the Lady Cottage siding, just behind the bench that sits under the window. It made it a little more difficult to sit while transplanting seedlings, or stemming snow peas with the bees doing the protective patrolling but we were able to co-exist. However, this morning shows that the woodpeckers have also found this new tunnel and decimated it. This time, the wood was so thin that there are now holes all the way through the board, so I can actually see inside the Cottage.

This brings on the third character in this tragic comedy, the wren. There’s nothing a wren likes more than a small hole that can be made just large enough to hop through. It always amazes me how quickly a wren can make a nest. I love wrens, with their sweet song and energetic little bodies. They always make me think of a 3 yr. old child, hopping about, skipping, begging for attention, and almost non-stop chatter. However, I do not like them nesting in my Lady Cottage, leaving a mess and little bird-droppings on every surface.

For years, Carpenter bees have excavated the boards of our gazebo. We’ve had to replace several of the boards that hold the guttering repeatedly over time. More recently, the bees have seemed to prefer the Lady Cottage.

Last year, they did lots of damage high up on the north side of the Lady Cottage, so in the fall I climbed a 12′ ladder and put Wood Putty in all the holes. At least it kept the wrens out this spring. However, sadly, it appears the woodpeckers will also peck through Wood Putty because this is what it looks like now. I’ve been told that certain paints and paint colors tend to repel them, and certainly covering the Cottage with aluminum or vinyl siding would deter them as well, but I like the rustic look of stained wood. I’ve tried putting out boards to their liking, even hanging them on the Cottage, but the bees seem to prefer drilling in the structure itself.

This morning, again on the north side, but in an area about eye level (above the Primrose Path) I spotted a newly drilled hole (on the left of the photo) near a tunnel I had repaired with Wood Putty earlier this spring. Obviously the woodpeckers have been back again, too. Wouldn’t you think the bees would learn, and not re-drill so close to a tunnel that has been destroyed?

So, that’s the dilemma. Right now, I’m leaning toward repair and painting the structure, but I’m not sure I can live with a bright yellow or white that are apparently deterrents. Any suggestions on how I can keep both the Carpenter bees and the Lady Cottage?

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Six on Saturday: June 5

It’s Saturday, and I begin this selection of six with this photo, which asks the question “Who’s eating all the leaves off my marigolds?” These are in the fenced in potager, so it’s not an animal (although squirrels easily climb the fence). As you can see, all the foliage is gone with just the stems and flowers left. There’s three or four new “bare” ones each morning! Who likes to eat stinky marigold leaves? Any clues? Nothing else seems to be touched, not lettuce, other flowers, baby seedlings, just the marigolds.

2) For the first time, I’ve actually grown beautiful Napa cabbage. I harvested the largest head and made a salad that we first had in Germany. It was fantastic, and I took a photo on my phone, but for some reason I can’t seem to transfer photos from my phone to my computer. So, the photo is the second largest head, which still has a bit of growing to do, but they are so tasty and tender. “Baby Napa Cabbage” from Renee Shepherd Seeds. Normally, in the past the Napa has bolted before it even formed heads, or they are tough and bitter. I’ll be growing more as a fall crop for sure.

3) Finally this week there was time to build an obelisk. Nothing elegant, but serviceable so I can see if it’s something I really like. D immediately called them “the oil derricks” and wants to be informed as soon as I strike oil or gas. Our area is famous for it’s natural gas wealth, so it’s not totally foreign. Our neighboring town is “Gas City.” I looked at it for a day, and then decided to stain it to match the fence. It’s in the background. A second one was built, and I think I like them well enough to stain the second one as well. The furring strips are inexpensive and leftover from building the berry boxes last fall. The length of the scraps determined the placement and number of horizontal pieces. The stained one has already been planted with cucumbers. The second one will have pumpkins.

4) The roses burst forth this week and “Adobe Sunset” rose, planted two years ago is by far leading the bud count. She’s just loaded with gorgeous blooms. I’m so delighted with this rose purchased from High Country Roses. It’s a little crowded with nigella, but still performing so beautifully!

5) The focus of this photo is not the rose, but the blooming cutting celery to the right. It was planted last year to provide lots of fresh-cut leaves for salads that needed a bit of celery flavor, and dried to perk up soups (especially leek & potato soup) all winter. This spring it came back thickly, providing a few more harvests before it began to send up bloom stalks. They resemble parsley or cilantro in looks, and make a wonderful filler for bouquets. However, I won’t be cutting many stalks because what I want are the seeds. We use a lot of celery seed in cole slaw and this is an easy way to refill my jar.

6) Is there anything more satisfying to a gardener than a freshly edged and mulched garden? After the potager’s paths were mulched, the first garden to get a facelift was the Front Island. Nothing makes a garden look more tended than a good edge and a tidy mulch. The blue alliums in the foreground have been a nice addition this year. The very first daylily opened up in this garden yesterday, little “Bumblebee” but somehow, I didn’t get her in the photo!

That’s my SOS for this week. If you’d like to see more gardening photos and ideas from around the globe, check out The Propagator, who hosts this meme. Happy Growing!

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May: Monthly Review

The beds are filling quickly in May!

How the days can fly by so quickly becomes ever more mystifying to me as I age. One would assume the days would seem longer, but that just isn’t true. This merry month of May was overall delightful! Our world appears to be returning to a bit more “normal” in terms of being with family and friends, exchanging hugs, and just a better overall mental state (less worrying and stressing over the unseen!) We were able to see three of our four children and their families, and have dinner with friends three different times this month! Of course, having the gardens filled with flowers and food is always delightful, too!

Weather wise, it was just about as perfect as May can be, although a bit more rain would have been welcome. There were 27 of the 31 days of May that were sunny, mostly in the mid-70’s F and labeled “beautiful!” in the daily journal, and 4 days that were overcast or rainy, although the rain totals were much less than the normal 6″ for May. The hoses had to come into play more often than is usual, but I find that relaxing and a good time to really look at things as I water. The flowers that were so meager and long-awaited in February, March and April just exploded in May. It was a task just to keep up with the Bloom Journal, and pleasing to note that some of the gaps that occurred last year were filled in a bit this year by the alliums and new irises. The mock orange shrubs planted as tiny babies three years ago finally are filling in and blooming more profusely, too, and the primulas added last year to the Front Island have made a difference there. Just for the fun of it, a look back at the Bloom Journal shows the number of varieties that bloomed each month: March: 31; April: 64; May: 82

May brought an end to having plants in the basement (Hurrah!) but before that happened, 8 varieties were seeded, bringing the final 2021 indoor seeding number to 166. In addition, 690 babies were potted up, bringing the total transplants to date to 3,268. That doesn’t count things potted up from the gardens for the plant sale, only seeds planted and grown on to pots.

There are buds on the summer squash!

In the potager, May saw most of the over-wintered crops (spinach, kale, carrots, leeks) harvested and new crops put in on an almost daily basis. Surprisingly, there are still “Tom Thumb” and leaf lettuces that overwintered being enjoyed in salads as the month ends! The major planting of the heat-loving tomatoes, peppers and squash was delayed by a couple of mid-month frost warnings, but they are catching up quickly with blooms already appearing on both tomatoes and peppers! The squash are budded, so they won’t be long either. There are some new varieties that I’m excited to try: “Jaune de Vert,” which can be used as a summer squash when young, but can also be allowed to mature and stored as a winter squash; and “Bossa Nova,” an improved zucchini type with pale, pale green skin with dark green markings.

Look closely and you’ll see tiny, tiny purple cauliflower heads beginning to form!

I’m also eager to try the purple cauliflower, which I’ve not grown before. The web flats under them are shading a newly transplanted crop of lettuces. The snow peas are ready, the shelling peas are setting pods. The number of varieties added to the potager in May was 50, bringing the total to 81, which doesn’t count anything already there (perennial herbs, flowers, self-seeded volunteers, etc.) The potager is really starting to look full!

The first strawberries of the season are always a treat! The berry boxes seem to be working well; so far no raccoon, bird or squirrel damage.

Harvest-wise, May brought a slight increase to the menu: radishes, green onions, strawberries, and bok choy were added to the asparagus, carrots, leeks, lettuces, kale, and spinach we’d been eating steadily. Total harvest in May was 36.25 lbs. (’17: 9.5; ’18: 23.5; ’19: 14.75; ’20: 25.25) Most of this increase was due to the crops that were overwintered so successfully in the berry boxes covered in plastic. Certainly that will be repeated next year with all four being put to that use, and maybe even one more being built this fall! We’ll see how it goes. No preserving was done in May.

The Cutting Garden is nearly all planted as of May 31st, with the last of the dahlias, the miniature gladiolas, scabiosa, celosias, zinnias and cosmos added most recently. The “bunny fence” seems to be working so far. Eight bouquets were harvested, with Dames’ Rocket, May Queen shastas, iris, Silver Bells, hyacinthoides and columbines added from the gardens to what was available in the Cutting Garden proper.

The first load of mulch was acquired and spread on the potager’s two main paths in May. Obviously, mulching is far behind normal but it will be done over time.

Remember those ugly pink portulaca that were planted in the Front Garden (presumably orange!)? Well, worry no longer because the bunnies ate them down to the soil line! Now I’ll have to think of a way to thwart them when the replacement (yellow) ones are added. I see those “teenagers” romping through the lawn and disappearing into various gardens, and know that it’s doubtful their appetites will lessen! Where are my foxes when I need them?

That’s the review for May, 2021. It was SUCH a good month, and seems to promise lots of good things to come. Hope your May was filled with blessings as well. Happy growing!

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Six on Saturday: May 29

This final “Six on Saturday” for May 2021 begins with the first rose of the season! As you can see, we had a bit of welcome rain during the night washing all the dust that had settled on every surface during the neighbors’ planting the field next door, and now everything looks fresh and clean. The roses have grown well and are filled with buds, so anticipation is high for June.

“Love in a Mist”

2) Nigella, or “Love in A Mist” is one of my favorites, and it just burst into bloom this week in the potager’s interior border. Varying shades of blue are such a delight amid that dainty, ferny foliage. They self-seed and pop up here and there, always welcome. There are white ones in the Cutting Garden, but they have not even budded yet.

“Lemon Mist” thyme in full bloom

3) There’s nothing prettier than thyme in bloom. “Lemon Mist” is my favorite thyme. It’s bloom is actually a bit more lavender than the photo shows. Normally it is just covered in honeybees, but there’s so few now in our area that if I see one or two a month it’s a cause for celebration.

Oregon Giant Snow peas

4) The first blooms of the season opened this week on the snow peas. They bear close watching, because it seems the time from flower to edible pods is just a blink or two.

One of these things is not like the others; one of these things just doesn’t belong….can you sing along?

5) If you’ve read this blog for long, you know that I’m fascinated by the variations in seedlings. I can’t help but wonder if the lettuce in the center is actually a “mutant” of “Reine des Glaces”, or just an errant seed that got stuck in the packing machine and accidentally dropped into the wrong seed packet. Anyway, I’m loving those jagged tips on the “Reine” lettuces and just hoping they taste as good as they look! It’s a French “head” lettuce that does really well in cold weather, thus its name “Queen of the Ice” so I’ll do another planting in the fall and hope it matures into the colder autumn weather.

There is something a bit lurid about fava pods!

6) The dwarf “Robin Hood” favas began setting pods early in the week. The four “standard” tall favas just began to bloom the end of the week. All are being pollinated by the carpenter bees that are drilling holes in my Lady Cottage again….I guess we take the good with the bad.

That’s my six for this week. And just an update on “Thwarting the Bunnies”…so far, so good two night’s running. For more “SOS” highlights, visit The Propagator, the host of this fun meme.

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Thwarting the bunnies….I hope!

The first strawflowers went into the Cutting Garden on Monday!

This has been a strange year…again! So far, there’s been nary a sign of raccoons in the potager. Maybe my berry boxes have them flummoxed. The planters on the Deck have not been dug out by raccoons, squirrels, or chipmunks after being planted for the first year ever! Not a single tulip was eaten by the deer. I should be counting my blessings. And I am grateful for all those non-events. But, we’re being overrun by rabbits!

I planted lupines in the Front Garden and Fairy Slope; they didn’t last one night. I should have learned. Earlier this week, I planted the first strawflowers in the Cutting Garden. You can see them in the top photo, looking healthy and happy. I only had time to plant half of them, and as it turned out, that’s a very good thing. Here’s the same patch the next morning…

Only three left, and they all are missing various parts!

Apparently those tender strawflowers drew them into this area, and after that appetizer they ate the leaves and buds off the lilies, and the tops off the garden phlox. They were busy, busy bunnies! From past experience, I know that they are even more keen on some of the plants yet to be put into the Cutting Garden (zinnias, gomphrena, asters, cosmos) so obviously something must be done, and FAST!

Just look at this poor decapitated, leafless lily! Will it recover?
The bunny fence posts are in…

D was going to town, so I asked him to pick up 15 4′ electric fence posts. They were the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way for a quick fence. Fifteen posts cost $23; they go into the ground easily and they are durable, lightweight and easy to store. I’ve already thought of several uses for them once the fence is no longer needed. I replanted with the second half of the strawflowers, added a few cosmos and asters, and decided I’d better get the netting up because the strawberries still needed to be picked and it was nearly dinner time.

The netting is on…

It’s very hard to see in the photo, but I used the berry netting that is used on the blackberry row. Folded in half, it makes a double layer and is just the right height. It fastened onto the posts very easily at the top, and I hooked it under each bottom post’s little “tooth” on the foot as I went. For added measure, I spaced heavy pots and planters along the bottom with the netting folded out under them to deter digging. Yes, I know rabbits could chew through it, but I’m just hoping to deter them until the plants get a little bigger and tougher. There are SO MANY other tasty treats for them in our back yard and wooded areas that I’m hoping they won’t be inclined to work that hard.

The patch of strawflowers when I left them last evening…

This morning’s drizzle (very welcome by the way!) didn’t deter me from checking the strawflowers first thing. Donning my long raincoat over my pajamas, finding my rubber boots, and grabbing the camera, I hurried to the Cutting Garden almost dreading to see what I’d find. I was surprised to realize I was holding my breath as I approached the south end where the strawflowers were planted. Lo and behold….

All present and accounted for!

Success!….at least for the first night. We’ll just have to see how determined these bunnies are, but so far, so good…

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Busy, busy

The chamomile needs to be harvested!

It’s been a little crazy around here lately. Suddenly the temperatures rose, the soil warmed and it was perfect weather for planting all the crops that have been languishing in pots and flats: melons, tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc. BUT, the deadline for the plant sale was fast approaching, so labeling and tidying plants for sale had to take precedence. AND, my daughter and son-in-law from Florida/Italy came for a brief visit before they head across the pond for months. SO, my mother wanted to have a family dinner while they were here for all those who’ve had their vaccinations, which meant lots of cooking, prep, and travel time.

My daughter pitched in and helped prep plants and label for the sale. They wouldn’t have all been ready otherwise. She left the day before the sale to visit other relatives in southern Indiana, so I did all the loading and unloading. In total, there were 583 plants and if you look at the photo above, you’ll see the few plants that didn’t sell in crates on the left. Some plants had to go into crates, so they could stack in order for them to all fit into the pick-up truck. As it was, it took 2 full loads, plus D ended up having to fill the back of his SUV with strawberry planters, a couple of tables, a chair, and a bag of bags. All of the strawberry planters (8) sold in the first hour, which was aided by the fact that several had ripe berries on them. Those were simply all the runners dug from the paths in the potager! All the elder shrubs sold quickly as well, as did all the plants with blooms and my miniature hostas. What didn’t sell well? White flowered plants (but everyone wanted blue or purple) eggplants, winter squashes, garlic chives, thymes, and tomatillos. We also had way too many tomato plants, but were short on peppers. I’ve made lots of notes for next year.

Loved, loved the white alliums in the Front Island!

I should have gotten out to take a photo of the white alliums while the viburnum snowballs were still pretty. Now they are brown, and if I had time, I’d clip them off. When the “Bright Gem” tulips, with their soft yellow blooms were still flowering, this bed was especially pretty. It’s so easy to miss those moments of glory, isn’t it?

My new favorite Iris, “Parisian Dawn.”

I’m trying not to miss the iris show, because some like the one above are blooming for the first time in my gardens. These came from Schreiner’s and were planted in late summer of 2019, but they are worth the wait.

Iris “Lace Legacy”…a soft orange sherbet with a bit of whipped cream on the falls and a bright orange beard, also from Schreiner’s. Notice the cracks in the ground, and all those little weeds, which tells you how behind I am in both weeding, and that I have not begun mulching at all this year!

I haven’t had a lot of iris because of borer issues, but I decided to add some to help fill in that “after the tulips are done” gap, especially since the cold temps in May the last few springs have delayed getting the annuals into the ground.

This big, bright orange iris is a standout in the Front Garden…no memory of where it came from or when!

And just so you don’t think all my irises have to be orange, here’s one that bloomed last year and is far more abundant this year.

There’s a dozen of these blooms in the potager exterior border right now.
And this one is on the Fairy Slope, next to the finishing bloom spikes of tellima.

Yesterday, I was finally able to begin planting in earnest, but there’s still lots to do. I stopped after seeing the forecast for rain, and ran into town for a load of mulch, and spent most of the afternoon spreading it on all the bare spots in the potager’s paths.

The Deck Garden has really changed in the past week!

The “Tiger Eye” sumac is leafing out now, its chartreuse foliage echoing both the “Gold Moss” feverfew front right, and the “Angelina” sedum far left edge center. The biggest change is the “May Queen” shasta daisies that are once again filling the gardens with happiness. They are so reliable and easy, and make a great cut flower. I cut these when they were already fully open, and they’ve still lasted a week in the vase. Don’t look at all the brown tulip foliage that needs to be removed…I’ll get to it eventually, along with trimming out the finished dwarf iris stalks. One job at a time…

Bouquet made for my daughter’s visit…Iris “Old Gold,” “American” columbine and “May Queen” shastas.

Now, you’re all caught up news-wise, and I’m off to clean the strawberries I picked last evening, and then since it’s raining I think it’s a good day to clean the Lady Cottage. It’s full of frost covers that need to be folded and stored away, (SURELY, we’re done with them for this season!) the seed packages that have just been left on the table need to be properly returned to the seed box, and I need to catch up the Bloom Journal and planting map for the potager. At least I won’t have to water!

Hope you are having a productive week, filled with blessings and joy. Hugs!

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Cutting Garden thoughts

Remember those bouquets I made last week?

Beginning with a little backstory to explain my thinking for this post…way, way back in the late 70’s when I began growing for market, I was focused on vegetables. We did a popular Saturday market in a college town, and I quickly found that Asian and Middle Eastern vegetables were a very profitable niche that no one else was filling (even the grocery stores didn’t carry much back then!) My 5 yr. old daughter went with me to market in those early days (her older sister stayed home to watch the little brother) and after watching the market for a few weeks, decided she wanted to sell flowers. So, she sold zinnias for 5 cents a stem, making her own change and charming her customers. Each week she wanted more flowers to sell and eventually, we devoted a small garden area to zinnias for cutting.

One of the problems with the flowers, however, was that if they didn’t sell at market (for instance, on a rainy Saturday with few customers) all that time and effort was an entire waste. You can’t can or freeze zinnias, or turn them into sauce or soup. Hard to be profitable in that case.

About this same time, I began growing gourds for crafting, and along with my sewing and painted items, we had enough stock for booths at fall and winter shows. I wanted another product line, and decided to grow drying flowers for bunches and wreaths. This was a huge advantage in many aspects. It gave us cut flowers to sell at market (we began taking 20 bouquets a week) and if they didn’t sell, we simply stripped off all the foliage and hung them to dry. Eventually, we bought another field just for drying flowers and converted the entire upstairs of the barn and the entire chicken house into drying sheds! We planted over 1,000 gomphrena, 1,000 celosia, 1,000 statice, 500 strawflowers, ammobium, lots of feverfew and more. We sold big red, almost basketball sized celosia for $5 each…an exorbitant price back in those days! As the girls got older, they learned to make beautiful dried flower wreaths, and we’d take 40-50 to a large show, plus dried bunches. As we expanded, we shipped dried flowers to specialty shops in Naples, Florida. Our timing was perfect…it was the beginning of the dried wreath craze, when everyone was decorating “country style” and hanging baskets on the rafters.

So, I know A LOT about cutting flowers, but only those that are also good “everlastings.” I know LITTLE about which other flowers make good cutting flowers (other than zinnias!) Last week, when I had committed to making bouquets for a brunch, but had only the flowers in my borders to harvest I realized just how little I know about the durability and appropriateness of some flowers. Yes, I could have Googled, but I’m more of a “try it and find out” kinda gal. And, these bouquets only had to look good for a few hours, which as it turns out, was a good thing!

Here’s what I learned:

1) Iris that have been rained on and are waterlogged only look good for a very few hours. I had to replace the once I’d cut the night before the following morning.

2) Iris buds that are still closed WILL open nicely and look beautiful, eventually. I found this out when I broke off the top fully opened bloom on a stem, so I stuck the stem in a pop bottle and put it on the kitchen counter. Both lower buds eventually opened and looked lovely, but only last a couple of days each.

3) Kale flowers last 4-5 days, but drop petals as the lower flowers fade first, so be prepared for “table confetti.” Those dainty yellow flowers are really pretty in an arrangement though, so I’d use them again personally, but not for sale…

4) Viburnum flowers looked good for 3-5 days, then drooped. Maybe I should have preconditioned them in some way, or pounded the stems, or something else. May have to do some research…

5) Ornithogalum “Silver Bells” were terrific and lasted nicely a full week! I’ll definitely use them again, and grow more.

6) Hyacinthoides began drooping after only a few hours…so sad as they are stunning in a bouquet. However, they were fully open when cut, so maybe an earlier harvest might make a difference?

7) Tulips were also fully opened, and had been for a few days, so I didn’t expect them to last long and they didn’t…only a couple of days.

Pickings are not just “slim”, they’re entirely missing!

This was just one little experimental bouquet, and I’m looking forward to playing around with more. Today’s experiment will be a bouquet with the “Old Gold” iris and the “American” columbine. I think they look great together, but have no idea if columbines are good cut flowers. And you can see the “May Queen” shasta daisies in this garden are just beginning to open. The ones in the Cutting Garden are barely budded. Must be the “stored” heat or reflected sun from the brick house and the dark wooden deck. Micro-climates are so interesting, aren’t they?

Columbine, iris, and shasta daisies…a lovely living bouquet, if not a good cut one!

Meantime, I’m increasing the number of varieties in the Cutting Garden, and am trying to get some earlier blooms there so I don’t have to cut from the gardens. As you can see from the photo taken this week, there’s nothing much in bloom. So far, the only “early” blooms in the official Cutting Garden were daffodils, and now the Dames Rocket at the very far end and not visible in the photo, is just beginning to open. No buds on the ranunculus, but the bulbs arrived very late. Obviously, the selection for spring cutting needs to be expanded. Suggestions? Don’t say tulips…the Cutting Garden is close to the woods and the deer and rabbits are frequent diners….. In fact, many of the strawflowers and all but one lupine planted this week have already been on the menu! The deer repellent doesn’t work when it’s been raining (Sigh!)

Loving the purple alliums!

The alliums in the Front Garden, Front Island, and potager interior border look great, but I’m certainly not going to cut them. Alliums for the Cutting Garden are already on the list for the fall bulb order. What do you grow for spring bouquets besides daffodils, tulips and alliums?

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